If there is a God, why is there such suffering in the world?
Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why should there not be? What would the world be like without suffering?
If we are to believe that God should prevent suffering, at what arbitrary and subjective point should he prevent it?
What suffering should God prevent?
Should he prevent starvation which is an obvious target? How would he do so? By forcing the ground to produce crops spontaneously so that those starving individuals could just go out and harvest wheat or pick up manna from the ground? By forcing the rest of the world to somehow provide food for them?
Should he prevent murder, genocide, and all wars by either killing the murderers before they act or shocking them in such a way that they know they are displeasing God? Just think of the good God could have done and the suffering he could have prevented by killing Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, and a host of other mass murderers before they acted.
Should he prevent adultery which harms the relationships of innocent spouses and causes hurtful grief and suffering?
Should he prevent theft, profanity that offends, liars that deceive people into giving up their wealth to help some “poor soul” (scam artist) that just needs to move $10 million out of Nigeria?
How should he prevent these things? By striking down the offender in the act, prior to the act when the thought is fully developed, or when the thought first occurs in their mind?
If one rationally thinks about these things, we would soon come to the conclusion that God would be hated by mankind for taking away the choices of any who might infringe on the rights of others, and thus God would be guilty of the same sin he is acting to prevent. We would soon worship the devil who would tell us we are free to do everything we want and our love for God would be extinguished in the moment our free will was taken from us.
It must become obvious that if there is a God, he must provide a level playing field for the souls of men to be able to, of their own free will and choice, follow God and find peace and joy through choosing to live his commandments, or else misery and pain by causing the suffering of others by their own actions. God’s laws are designed to give us choice with consequences that bring about one of these two ends.
God’s law of agency
In the LDS faith we call this principle, agency, or the ability to have free will to choose to serve God out of love and not by force. In the book of Revelation we read of a war in heaven in which Satan was cast out.
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Why was Satan cast out in this war? From another book of scripture that we use in the LDS faith, we read two reasons:
Moses 4:3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
First, Satan wanted to destroy our choice by creating a utopia where everyone would be forced to choose the right and everyone would wind up back in heaven because their agency would be suspended during this mortal testing period.
Second, because he was going to do this supposedly great work of ensuring that all of God’s children would return to heaven (albeit by means of force), he wanted God’s power for himself.
The resulting war in heaven had him forcibly removed and cast down to earth to tempt God’s children to sin by attempting to get them to violate others’ agency and establish his plan for forced righteousness on earth. We can see this in the actions of the communist philosophy which is forced equalization by those in power trying to create a perfectly organized society where nobody suffers (and yet everyone suffers). Misery abounds when agency is cut off.
Our Heavenly Father is a loving being that doesn’t operate under force. In a section of modern day scripture unique to the LDS church, we read God’s specific instruction to his priesthood holders about how they must act in order to please God.
Doctrine & Covenants 121:34-37
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson-
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
Why does God allow for suffering?
God allows for suffering in this world because this world is a temporary proving ground, and for God to remove suffering would violate God’s laws and his honor and respect throughout the universe would cease. In essence, God would cease to be God. In order for God’s eternal plan for mankind to succeed, we must have our agency to choose eternal life with God. As for the suffering in the world, the true followers of Christ covenant with God to use their agency to do what God himself would do if he were here.
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life-
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?